Open letter to newly elected municipal leaders and all municipalities in Ontario

There are over 300,000 Indigenous people living in Ontario, many of whom live in urban centres and First Nations communities bordering major municipalities. When municipal elections take place within Ontario, a growing number of Indigenous people take to the polls, increasing voter turnout, which has risen an estimated 52.1% this year.

First Nations are becoming increasingly engaged and involved politically in the municipal system, which influences the reality of poverty, employment, health care, education, housing and a number of other polarizing challenges they face. They want municipal leadership that will effectively address their issues.

The Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy, made up of First Nations leadership from the various Treaty and First Nations areas within the Province of Ontario, extend their congratulations to all newly elected and returning municipal leaders. As municipal leaders take the time to consider their mandates, the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy urge them to also begin outreach with First Nations communities and leaders within their regions to have a larger dialogue on issues of shared interest and concern. Municipal governance is changing.

Across Canada, municipal governments and neighbouring First Nations communities are developing stronger constructive relationships and respecting each other’s jurisdiction.

Within Ontario, municipalities and First Nations are increasingly finding innovative ways of working together. Some recent examples include, but are not limited to: York Region, City of Vaughan and the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation and Six Nations of the Grand River; Town of Midland and Beausoleil First Nation; City of Kenora and Grand Council Treaty #3; City of Elliot Lake and Serpent River First Nation; City of Kingston and the Six Nations of the Grand River, Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

First Nations/municipal relationships will play an important role in determining how the province of Ontario evolves. In addition to the “bread/butter” and other issues that are galvanizing First Nations residents of your communities – municipalities need to also consider potential impacts of proposed project/decisions that impact on First Nations’ Treaty and Aboriginal rights.

Together, First Nations and municipalities must work with the Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing, and other government ministries to ensure we move forward in mutually beneficial ways in all sectors.

Again, congratulations to all newly elected Mayors and Council throughout Ontario. On behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy, we look forward to building and nurturing a strong relationship over the next four years. As part of our responsibility towards this, we will be reaching out to organizations that bring municipalities together so that you may have additional opportunities that will enable information sharing and communication with First Nations leadership. Also, we encourage you to include First Nations leadership in your official business so that there can be effective, well-rounded dialogue.

On behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy,

Stan Beardy, Regional Chief.

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